Karl Taylor spoke at length Friday about what the off-season looks like for an ECHL coach, what he expects of the players, and how he’ll go about building next year’s team. Here’s some of what won’t make it into tomorrow’s story…
In case you missed it, check out my season recap in today’s editions of the Daily Bulletin and Sun.
Also, expect defenseman P.J. Atherton to be back in Grand Rapids in time for the Griffins’ AHL playoff game tomorrow in Ontario (the Canadian Ontario).
Kings goaltending consultant Bill Ranford was at Game 6 of the Reign-Thunder series Tuesday, along with Terry Murray, Dean Lombardi, Ron Hextall and Luc Robitaille. It was the first game for Murray and Lombardi, the second for Hextall and Robitaille, and the last of several this season for Ranford, who’s been keeping a close eye on Kings goaltending prospects Jeff Zatkoff and Linden Rowat.
Thoughts in the moment:
Now what? Now what, really. You don’t really think about these moments, what’s next after this. It’s a tough way to end the season. They played well, I think we responded real well. We missed some breaks tonight. Obviously took some tough ones under the chin.
On the number of bad bounces:
You see bad bounces, you just don’t see ‘em so repetitively. But that’s why you play the game. Good bounces, bad bounces, you’re going to have your night, you’re not going to have your night. We came up short, but it wasn’t for lack of effort that’s for sure.
On Geoff Walker’s first-period goal getting called back:
It would have been a big goal for us. It would have been a momentum changer. They were pushing hard, pushing hard. Chad (Starling) made a good pass to (Geoff) Walker there, he went in, he scored. I saw the ref’s hand go up right away. I knew what was going on.
On the season ending:
The guys played their asses off tonight. All season. This is a tough way to end it, that’s for sure. Especially the character that’s in that locker room. Every single one of those guys, you would stand and take a bullet for, and they would take a bullet for you. Best team I’ve been on, for sure.
On third-period comeback:
I don’t think that surprised too many people. We expected to come back at some point. It was just too little, too late.
What makes this the best team you’ve ever been on?
I don’t know about talent wise, but I’d say heart and character and quality of people in that locker room, everybody cares so much and everybody’s so proud of each other, there isn’t a selfish guy in there. Each guy would probably take a bullet for everyone else in there. It’s tough to walk away from.
Thoughts in the moment:
Obviously a large amount of disappointment. After the year we had, we looked forward to playing in the playoffs a long time. We had given ourselves a chance to be contenders.
What happened in the final seconds when you raised your arms?
To me it looked like the puck went in the net. Obviously it didn’t go in the net. I didn’t think I scored; I thought somebody shot it in from the left side. It just grazed up on the outside of the mesh and laid there. I thought we banged it in late, but it didn’t happen. It was complete chaos out there. We battled hard to the end, and that’s all you can ask for.
On how Geoff Walker’s goal being called back affected the game:
Anytime you get a goal called back, which clearly in our eyes should have been (a goal), it’s disappointing. But then maybe that got to us a little bit and that’s disappointing on our shoulders. We’ve got to think about that. We kind of let up for 10 minutes of the game, and that possibly could have cost us the series.
On the third-period comeback:
It’s 4-1 going into the third period, and you know you’ve got to go. We’ve done it before, pushed late, played hard until the end a couple of nights. We’ll try to get it done again, just came up a little bit short.
Thoughts on the series:
You saw it go all the way down right to Game 7. You’d think a 4-1 lead — no lead was safe in the series. It shows that both teams were focused. The desire level was probably like it was a championship series. I think both teams, really, if you look back at it, didn’t play great defensively, because I don’t think you can give up as many goals as we gave up in the series to each team, but I also think both teams — Kraus’ goal is one of the prettiest goals. They scored the goal last night, I forget which it was, but there were some pretty goals. For a young team too, with the amount of young guys up front, they’re a talented group. That’s a really good team we just beat. At the end of the day, I think we might have got the lucky bounces. And that ends up being the difference.
Did you see interference on Geoff Walker’s goal that was called back?
I didn’t see it originally. On the replay, there’s definitely contact. Our guy is trying to get back into the play, gets knocked down. I don’t really. (The interference) wasn’t what sprung them (to score the goal). The new standard is, any interference — impeding is the word — impede any player’s forward progress, and you’re subject to a penalty. I think at the end of the day that is the new standard.
Did you hear a whistle prior to the goal being scored?
I thought I heard the whistle. There was a few times in there that I didn’t hear whistles, but I looked over, and I think the whistles were blown. It went that way. Without looking at the video, I can’t comment.
Looking forward to playing Las Vegas?
I’m just looking forward to still playing. I think we’re the lucky ones. That’s it. We just had a little more luck on our side. Any time you can beat a team that’s that good a team, you have to have luck on your side. We got some bounces early in the game that ended up being the difference, obviously.
Thoughts in the moment:
We’re very disappointed. We got a great team, and we’re real competitive. Lots of heart and soul, and we never quit. I don’t know if we could have gotten another bad bounce today. We lost because we lost — all the credit to Stockton, 100 percent, they came into our rink and won Game 7 — but I thought the officials struggled the whole game. The goal is a goal. I’ve never seen that call in my life. (The referee) is really involved in the first period, then he puts (his whistle) away in the second. I’m very disappointed with that stuff. But we lost because we lost. I’m not blaming the ref for us losing. We didn’t respond. When we got that goal disallowed, it really crushed our team. We didn’t respond well enough to that situation, and you don’t have time for that. We fought like crazy. We do it every time. Our team battles to the end. Always. Always. So it’s pretty disappointing.
DId you see interference?
No. There’s no interference on that play. There was nothing. Our guy had the puck, there’s no whistle, we score, he calls the call. What are you going to do? The ref calls it the way he sees it. You’re not going to get the calls all the time, that’s the way it goes. I’m really disappointed at the whole officiating crew, but that’s the game. That’s hockey. Sometimes you don’t get the calls. They dump a puck in on the power play, it hits the stance, comes down, the guy scores. Our D’s going for the rim. The bounces were against us, and we lost because we weren’t good enough today. I’m not passing the buck here. It’s our fault. I want to make sure I’m really clear here. It’s my fault. Our team’s fault. But there’s a lot of things that went against us. It was really disappointing.
Were your players ready to start the game?
We were ready. We were all excited to go. We were nervous, but I don’t think we were soft at all. My team is one of the hardest teams I’ve ever coached in my life.
We had a little lull.
On Stockton’s three first period goals in 2:32:
We scored the goal, came back and scored, but we were still focusing on the one we didn’t have. And so our team reacted poorly to that. It really affected us. We got down, and I was hoping — I almost called a timeout, decided not to — and they had some energy and scored.
In general, the postgame comments from both sides pointed toward the number of calls at critical moments that favored Stockton. Specifically, the first-period whistle that negated Geoff Walker’s goal, which Karl Taylor said his team was still thinking about as Stockton built a 4-1 lead late in the first period.
But there were a mountain of postgame comments, a variety of opinions and emotions and tangents to go off on about the conclusion to the Reign’s inaugural season. For now I’ll leave you with the key points from the third period that won’t make it into tomorrow’s editions. Check back with this blog if you’re still in the mood for said tangents tomorrow.
(And oh, by the way, Las Vegas successfully closed out its first-round series on home ice against Bakersfield, and will play the Thunder in the second round.)
And that’s how the season ends. More to come. The official scoresheet is here.
Needing a big period to climb back in the game, the Reign … put a paltry seven shots on goal and didn’t score.
Stockton went into a more defensive mode and the Reign labored to get the puck out of their own zone. On the few occasions they did, some good scoring chances emerged.
During a late power play, David Walker was on the left side of an odd-man rush, got a late pass from Tim Kraus, had a grade-A opportunity with Parker Van Buskirk out of position, and missed the net high. On another 3-on-2 charge, Brad Mehalko’s pass missed the outstreched stick of Todd Jackson by maybe an inch, and the play died before it even started.
The Reign survived two Thunder power plays, but they need to do more to save their season at this point. Now they need to gain a sense of urgency in a hurry.